This article by Cindy Hastings first appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of The Tiny Cottager.
Let me start off by saying that I am not a farmer. My meat comes in a nicely wrapped package and I am happy to pick my produce off a shelf. I am, however, very passionate about food and extremely proud of our local farmers and food entrepreneurs. I am fascinated by the amount of time, innovation, technology and sheer energy that goes into growing our food. This has been my motivation for spending countless hours with a small, grassroots, volunteer organization to develop Farm Fresh Food Fest.
The concept originated at the Economic Development Corporation of North Simcoe as it supports Tiny’s pillar of the corporation – Agriculture. It also perfectly aligns with several key objectives in Tiny’s recently minted strategic plan. The event is intended to be a forum for our farmers to speak directly to consumers about what they do in the hope of dispelling the many confusing messages and myths about modern farming. The timing is perfect as today’s consumers want to understand more about the food they eat. It is also a fitting celebration of Canada’s 150 as agriculture has always been one of our country’s biggest industries. FACT: 1 in 8 Canadian jobs are in Ag and Agri-Food.
The journey to bring this event to fruition has been rewarding and at times a bit frustrating. The first challenge was the original name: North Simcoe Agricultural Expo. Made sense. But it was not sexy enough for the marketing people so we eventually landed on Farm Fresh Food Fest. This was great until some suggested that we were misrepresenting ourselves: after all, they said, the event was about agriculture, not food. Nonetheless, we stuck to our guns.
We had another interesting bit of confusion. Some thought we were focusing too much on big “corporate” farming – not our local community farmers. Another head scratcher. Under their definition, my committee members would not be local because they farm over 1,000 acres, use cutting edge technology and sell products to national food chains. FACT: Approximately 98% of Canadian farms are family owned.
We have also had to deal with the on-going traditional versus organic farming debate. How can we possibly have both at the event? A common misconception is that the two sides plot against each other. In reality, the vast majority of farmers are passionate about what they believe in but all recognize that farming needs to be sustainable and that it is going take a concerted effort to provide enough good food to feed the world. FACT: The world will need 60% more food by 2050.
We have worked hard to make sure the event is informative but we have not lost sight of what this is – a celebration. Local vendors (100 mile criteria) will be selling FOOD. We will have everything from raw produce, value added foods and, of course, delicious prepared food you can eat all day long if you wish. Also, we have some amazing local artisans, engaging speakers, local entertainers and exhibitors. City TV personality, Frank Ferragine, will be on hand to speak about growing your own food. Dylan Sher, a University of Guelph student, will talk about his project, “Farm to Plate” — a film he hopes to enter into the 2018 TIFF. We are pleased that Jeff Leal, Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, will open the event. Children are the future of agriculture. On Friday, we are focusing on youth and inviting day camps to attend. The University of Guelph is bringing animal displays and shows of interest to children. FACT: Almost 25,000 farm operators are under the age of 35.
Our two evening dinners promise to be great experiences. The Three Sisters’ Feast on Friday night is a culinary celebration of our local French and Huron-Wendat cultures. Cultural interpreters, Metis dancers and drumming circles will make the evening special. Dr. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous Affairs, has been invited to open the dinner.
Eleanor McMahon, Ontario’s Minister of Tourism and Sport, is planning to attend our 100 Mile Dinner on Saturday evening. Guests will be treated to local entertainment throughout dinner and The Desotos will play their 50’s, 60’s and beyond rock and roll after dinner for dancing.
Several interesting partnerships developed as we planned the Farm Fresh Food Fest. The annual Simcoe County Plowing Match will take place on Saturday. Another exciting addition is the presentation of the Simcoe County Food and Agriculture Charter Champion Awards on Saturday evening.
The most simple and beautiful part of the event is the Sunday morning wrap up — an inter-faith service and community breakfast. This was a component of the event that we dreamed about from the beginning but weren’t sure if we could make it work. The support both financially and spiritually came together like a gift. It truly encapsulates the spirit of the farm community.
Please come on August 18, 19 and 20th to 4230 Crossland Road in Tiny for this celebration of our local agriculture. New information is posted on the event’s website www.farmfreshfoodfest.ca regularly. Tickets for both dinners will be available there too, as will tickets for the festival itself (adults $10, children $5). Follow us on Facebook: @farmfreshfoodfest and Twitter: @farmfreshfdfest.
Farm photo by Marie Richardson
Jim Lambie at an international plowing match in Meaford, 2004 Photo by Marlene Lambie